Jeremy Clarkson accuses people of 'whingeing' over free school meals
He said angry parents would only exchange their food vouchers "at the supermarket for fags and scratchcards."
Not one to shy away from controversy, former Top Gear star Jeremy Clarkson has accused angry parents of "whingeing" on the issue of free school meals.
The government recently faced criticism regarding the content of free school meal hampers supplied in England by one of its contractors, Chartwells UK.
Under the free school meals scheme, which was extended by the government last year after a campaign by Manchester United star Marcus Rashford, families in England were entitled to food vouchers worth £30.
However, food packages had replaced the £30 vouchers previously given to families. Many believed the value of the food included in these packages (and subsequently given to children at state schools) did not amount to £30.
Twitter user @RoadsideMum shared images of the free school meal package she received - with which she was expected to feed her family for 10 days. She estimated the total cost to amount to £5.22.
#FreeSchoolMeals bag for 10 days:
2 days jacket potato with beans
8 single cheese sandwiches
2 days carrots
3 days apples
2 days soreen
3 days frubes
Spare pasta & tomato. Will need mayo for pasta salad.
Issued instead of £30 vouchers. I could do more with £30 to be honest. pic.twitter.com/87LGUTHXEu
— Roadside Mum (@RoadsideMum) January 11, 2021
Chartwells said the package didn't represent the company's specifications, and, like the government itself, launched an investigation.
The Education Secretary said it was unacceptable.
"When I saw that picture I was absolutely disgusted"
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson says photo showing contents of a free school meals food parcel was "just not acceptable" and says Chartwells, the firm which supplied it, has apologisedhttps://t.co/Wt10XxTRqo pic.twitter.com/7H2gWia9mV
— BBC News (UK) (@BBCNews) January 13, 2021
Rashford shared similar images of paltry food packages to his social media platforms, which helped to further the discussion. The Manchester United man then spoke with Prime Minister Boris Johnson on the phone, and urged him to act.
Labour leader Keir Starmer took Johnson to task in the Commons, arguing that the scant food hamper wasn't far off actual government guidelines.
Eventually, public pressure paid off.
The conversation about food parcels and free school meals is an emotive one, but it misses the point.
It's not about value. It's about an ideological distrust of and disdain for the poor, from the people ruling the country. pic.twitter.com/DXVeoYvFge
— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) January 18, 2021
The government has since reintroduced food vouchers. More information on those can be found here.
This wasn't enough for former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson though. In his latest column in The Sunday Times, Clarkson hit out at people he accuses of "whingeing" over free school meals.
Taking a swipe at parents requesting food vouchers and not pre-packaged hampers, Clarkson said one woman in particular was "presumably [doing it] so that she could exchange it at the supermarket for fags and scratchcards".
He said he agreed with the stance taken by Rashford et al, but is still "fed up" with people "whingeing".
"On the food front, I think [Rashford's] fight is noble and well judged, and I agree that some shameless profiteering is going on.
"But I am fed up to the back teeth of the whingeing this story unleashed."
Now presenting The Grand Tour on Amazon Prime, Clarkson was previously dismissed by the BBC after a physical altercation with a Top Gear producer. It stemmed from the producer allegedly making a mistake with Clarkson's food order.